In a talk with Saigon Investment, Mr. DANG MANH PHUOC, Director of Outbox Consulting, a research and development consultation company for tourism, said that after the fourth wave of the pandemic it is being seen that the revival of tourism in Vietnam will need a massive support from the State, if it has to get back once again on its feet.
JOURNALIST: - Sir, when tourism activities resume again, what difficulties and challenges will businesses face?
Mr. DANG MANH PHUC: - First of all, the market recovery picture for tourism is still very much blurred. This fourth wave of the pandemic has been very much different from previous times, as it directly hit Ho Chi Minh City which is a major economic center of the country and also a major domestic market center. The lockdown conditions greatly affected the purchasing power of tourists. We will need more time for the recovery process, as first the economic recovery in general will have to take place, then we can discuss in more detail the resilience of the tourism industry in particular.
The second difficulty that businesses face is in the services sector. After two years of being under the influence of the Covid-19 pandemic, human resources within enterprises have fallen drastically, and in order to recover, businesses need time to recruit and retrain new staff and workers. In addition, another difficulty that is also being mentioned a lot by businesses is financial resources. The last four outbreaks of the Covid-19 pandemic have exhausted tourism businesses, and now, these businesses need financial support to recover and operate once again.
Certainly, there are many difficulties facing businesses this time, but from a positive angle, there are also some optimistic points for them. After nearly two years of dealing with four outbreaks of the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses have more experience. Vietnamese enterprises are well versed in dealing with drastic situations, and will certainly operate very efficiently in future. In addition, the businesses that still exist and continue to operate after this fourth wave of the pandemic will be those businesses that are very resilient and capable, and will also be the ones who will help in pulling the tourism industry out of its current state of hibernation.
More importantly, based on observation of the current tourist market, Vietnamese tourists are being seen as quite optimistic, and having a positive reaction after the crisis. This we saw in all the three first waves of the pandemic. Of course, this fourth wave will take more time to fully passing, but businesses can remain confident in the recovery of the domestic tourism market.
- Sir, the pandemic must have changed the psychology of tourists, and their choice of destinations must also have changed a lot. So how should businesses and localities adapt to this change? Should we launch stimulus programs like we did after the previous three outbreaks of the pandemic?
- Currently, Outbox Consulting is supporting the General Department of Tourism, to conduct an overall study on assessing the change in behavior and thinking of domestic tourists when traveling under the situation of the Covid-19 pandemic, and we will release the results by the end of November.
However, initially it has been noticed that tourists have changed quite a lot in their attitudes, so in coming time businesses as well as localities will also need to change. We cannot serve what we have in the past, but we have to serve what the customer needs under the present circumstances. The customer is the core product of the tourism industry, and we must understand what the customer likes, and worry about providing suitable solutions. As I said, the recovery of the market is still difficult to predict, so businesses should focus on core competencies and target markets rather than spreading out thin in many directions.
The stimulus programs at the moment, in my opinion, are not appropriate. Since last year, after three outbreaks of the pandemic, the tourism industry has talked a lot about stimulus. However, with the differences in this fourth wave of the pandemic, we need an overall national program for recovery both domestically and internationally. Looking at countries in the region like Thailand or Singapore, what we lack is a national program. After each outbreak of disease, what we usually do is launch a time based program. During four waves of the pandemic, we not only lost customers but also lost a lot of things associated with tourism. Now it is necessary to restore businesses, brand images, and communication, with detailed and long-term plans.
- Sir, in addition to restoring the domestic market, this November the tourism industry will also pilot international visitors in Phu Quoc island. What should we do to not miss the opportunity to welcome international guests?
- Compared to other countries in the region like Thailand, this time we have some weaknesses that are even weaker in piloting international arrivals. The first is about the destination brand. We chose Phu Quoc island, a beautiful destination in the eyes of the Vietnamese people, but compared to Phuket in Thailand, we are no match. Secondly, in terms of technology, we are also weaker than other countries in this sector. However, Vietnam will have to do its best for this international opening. At this point, we must not fail because it will cause severe and heavy losses. Vietnam needs a detailed and comprehensive scenario for the plan to welcome international visitors.
A little while ago, there was information that in June 2022, Vietnam could fully open to international tourists, but then the General Department of Tourism denied this information. This makes businesses disappointed because international customers are very different from domestic customers. They are not waiting for us to open the door to enter, and it takes six months to one year for us to draw up welcome plans. The information up to this point I have received is quite general. We are expected to welcome a certain number of visitors to Phu Quoc island, but where those guests come from, how to welcome them, and what the media message is, is not clear. There must also be response scenarios because we cannot expect to welcome guests without a plan, and know how to handle this situation, so as not to cause a bad experience for our visitors.
-Thank you very much.